Is the iPhone Enterprise Material?

Several sites are reporting that AT&T (formally Cingular) intends to target the iPhone, about as consumer-friendly a mobile handset as there’s been, to the enterprise market as well.

An anonymous source told InfoWorld that AT&T is even in the process of getting back end enterprise billing and support systems ready for such an eventuality, for example.

Analysts recommend businesses not take the bait.

That is, if they would consider rolling out a device like the iPhone in the first place, which many won’t. As Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney put it to InfoWorld: “We’d be against it. We’d immediately tell our customers that’d be a very serious mistake.”

Here’s a list of caveats against the iPhone for enterprises to consider:

The lack of a removable battery; the all-touch screen device lacks a hard keypad (or keyboard), which could make dialing while driving (or not looking at the iPhone directly under any circumstances) difficult, if not impossible; a lack of support for business e-mail and messaging (Microsoft Exchange, RIM BlackBerry, etc.); and the fact that it is Apple’s first go at a mobile handset. Businesses, which good reason, tend to go with the tried and true first.

And then there’s the inability for third-parties, including enterprises, to write applications for the iPhone, which runs on a scaled-down version of Mac OS X. By contrast, the Palm OS, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and BlackBerry, the four most popular smartphone operating systems in the U.S., all allow developers to develop software to run on devices built on them.

“Companies like to extend corporate apps to the mobile space, and in order to do that, you need an open OS,” Current Analysis principal analyst Avi Greengart explained to InfoWorld.

Apple’s iPod/phone/Internet device is scheduled to be released in June. A 4 GB edition of the iPhone is slated to cost $499 with a 2-year contract, while an 8 GB model will sell for $100 more.

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